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Thread: Cultural Appropriation Prize

  1. #76
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underdawg47 View Post
    It would be interesting if someone from a different race and culture were to learn a dying language from an elderly person who was the last person to speak it. Should the language simply go extinct? Should the younger people from this ethnic group who didn't bother to learn the language from their elders have a right to sue if someone outside their culture speak their language instead of them?
    This is a thing that happens now. And not on a rare basis. We are losing living languages, rapidly.

    See Theodora Kroeger; Ishi: Last of his Tribe.

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  2. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underdawg47 View Post
    I think people should be able to retain their cultural identity and pass it down to their children without being forced to adopt the dominate culture, but i don't think art styles, language, crafts, technology, myth, music styles, etc should be treated as copy written material. As a writer, I certainly don't plan to limit myself to writing only about my own race, culture, sex, sexual orientation, etc.
    All created works have copyright from creation; as a legal concept in the U.S. in very broad and inexact terms that covers anything created since 1921.

    I do think as an ethical principle, we need to treat other cultures as things that have meaning to others that they may not have for us, and be respectful of those meanings.

    While I understand, I think, what Andres Serrano was trying to do with his 1987 Piss Christ photo, I kinda wish he hadn't.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 05-20-2017 at 04:57 AM.

  3. #78
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slhuang View Post
    Wait, what?

    What?

    I'm a genre writer too, and we are not streets ahead, we are not less terrible, and elves are not diversity.

    Or have you not noticed that all the elves are white?

    Genre has enormous problems. Did you miss Racefail 2009? Did you miss the blowup about the SFWA bulletin in 2013? Did you miss the racist, misogynistic assholes who've been trying to take over the Hugos the past three years? And those are just the biggest ones; SFF has new ragemaking stuff happen every month or so like clockwork. How/what we write intersects hugely with our own world and our own life experiences -- yes, even in genre -- and critical analysis of the cultures created in SFF worlds shows there is a lot lacking before we can make the least claim of being less terrible.

    We write societies based on medieval Europe with all white people, and then claim historical accuracy (false, and also, DRAGONS?!).

    We write societies with white elves and white dwarves and white halflings and then there's that one exotic barbaric land across the mountains with the dark-skinned humans.

    We make up imaginary societies with no queer beings, no disabled beings, and monolithic cultural values with no in-story explanation; the only reason being that we're bringing our own real-world biases.

    We write stories that are all white men (or white elves, or white dwarves, or male aliens) and only a sprinkling of women or POC, in societies that are supposed to be equal. We give those women and POC terrible, stereotypical roles.

    We assume Western cultural mores and don't conceive that even within our own real world there are cultures with value systems of varying priorities in ways that are just as valid, so we portray anything that doesn't fit into Western values as new, exotic, alien, inhuman.

    Want to learn? Start with this essay, and then google. There are many people in SFF talking about this. MANY. We have huge problems in genre, and we are not less terrible for including elves, ffs.
    I think my extensive participation in the discussion of those issues here over the past decade or so is ample evidence that I haven't missed anything. I am aware of the parlous state of representation in general across all genres, and that speculative fiction has many of its own hills to climb. I'm not sure how what I posted got interpreted as saying genre is somehow perfect (of course not, it's terrible, only better as a class than the racist and exclusionary lit establishment? No I can't prove that, it's just a gut feeling based on how diverse the authorship and how aware the readership in general seems to me, so I'll withdraw it) and I wasn't remotely saying that elves are a substitute for having racial/sexual/gender diversity in your fiction (c'mon, I've railed against that kind of idiocy on this forum myself, I'm sure), but in reflection I'm probably making my point poorly if I'm relying on my priors, so apologies.

    So: yes, artists and writers should do their best at inclusion, but if their best is being even MORE terrible Mr Burns-style, by thieving wholesale from the indigenous and treating diverse characters as spice you add to your middle class suburban white sauce to make it taste worthier, then maybe they just shouldn't.

    Yes, I still think TPTB in the lit bunker would be well served to look at how other genres are dealing with their own representation issues, before trying out the great white saviour routine as if no one else on Earth has ever thought about the problem. Saving the cultures by appropriating the cultures! How perfectly imperial. Get out of the goddamn house. And no, it's not necessarily specfic with the answers, either. Romance and kids/YA lit, maybe.

    Yes, I still think SFF might be a suitable sandbox for some artists to experiment with diverse perspectives if they want to, without being appropriative or abusive. Depends on the execution. No, it's not a substitute for actual diversity, but it might be safe practice. (Mind you, when I see alleged literary leaders act the way they did up top, my cynical side wonders if the best we could hope for from them would be some sensitively realised elves.)
    Last edited by Albedo; 05-20-2017 at 06:04 AM.

  4. #79
    practical experience, FTW Underdawg47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    All created works have copyright from creation; as a legal concept in the U.S. in very broad and inexact terms that covers anything created since 1921.

    I do think as an ethical principle, we need to treat other cultures as things that have meaning to others that they may not have for us, and be respectful of those meanings.

    While I understand, I think, what Andres Serrano was trying to do with his 1987 Piss Christ photo, I kinda wish he hadn't.

    Personally I think patent laws should be amended so that the creator only make money off of his creation only during his or her lifetime. I don't think copyrights should go beyond their deaths. I also think that inventions, especially the ones like alternative energy sources if not used within 10 years should be free to anyone to use. Too many oil companies buy up technology in order to force fossil fuels upon us.

    I think cultural dances, music, language, art, and myth are not copyright material.

    Ethically I think people should try to respect other people and their cultures, religion up to a point. If a certain culture or religion has used their power to dominate and condemn those that want to believe different, then people should every right to criticize them, make fun and satirize them. The Piss Christ is a good example. I think those who have been harmed by a religion, or culture have every right to poke fun, or blaspheme as a form of protest through art.
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  5. #80
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Underdawg47 View Post
    Personally I think patent laws should be amended so that the creator only make money off of his creation only during his or her lifetime. I don't think copyrights should go beyond their deaths.
    This is a can of worms, though, because in pretty much every other human endeavor that makes money, people get to leave assets and property to their spouses and kids when they pass away. Why shouldn't artists and writers have a way of assuring some money from their creations continues to flow to the dependents/loved ones they pre-decease?

    I also think that inventions, especially the ones like alternative energy sources if not used within 10 years should be free to anyone to use. Too many oil companies buy up technology in order to force fossil fuels upon us.
    Another thorny problem, because why would anyone bust their butts researching and developing something if they can't profit for it for some time after it reaches a usable stage? There are many problems with capitalism, granted, but it's the system under which many of us currently operate. It's frustrating how copyright law plays out in practice sometimes, but change would not be without negative consequences.

    I think cultural dances, music, language, art, and myth are not copyright material.
    I don't think anyone said these things were copyrighted, or could be, except for individual works that were created within the requisite time period. As far as I know, there's no law against cultural appropriation, at least not in the US (I can't speak for other countries). The discussion here has been about the problems cultural appropriation imposes on marginalized cultures, and on whether or not there might be repercussions for a writer in terms of popularity or criticism, or whether publishers are reluctant to acquire novels that might be seen as culturally appropriative. Neither of these two possible repercussions have anything to do with copyright law or any sort of legal sanctions.

    Ethically I think people should try to respect other people and their cultures, religion up to a point. If a certain culture or religion has used their power to dominate and condemn those that want to believe different, then people should every right to criticize them, make fun and satirize them. The Piss Christ is a good example. I think those who have been harmed by a religion, or culture have every right to poke fun, or blaspheme as a form of protest through art.
    I don't think anyone would argue with you here. And no one has said that people don't have a right to satirize other cultures, dominant or not, nor to write whatever they darned well please for any reason they darned well please. But as has been stated over and over in various threads about this issue and others related to racism, sexism, homophobia and so on, freedom of speech doesn't mean anyone has an obligation to grant a writer, artist or speaker a platform, nor does it forbid people from criticizing the choice a given author has made.

    Some people were very offended/hurt by the crucifix in the beaker of urine image. It's not something I completely understand, since Christianity is the dominant religion in the US, and one that has been the oppressor of other faiths more often than not. I honestly don't think it would bug me that much if I were Christian in practice and sentiment (as well as in cultural background), aside from thinking "Oh, yuck, that's in poor taste," which is what I thought of it as a non Christian. BUT, people come at things from different perspectives and backgrounds. For some people, the map is the territory, at least emotionally. Who am I to tell them they're wrong to feel as they do?

    That this artist had the right to create that photograph (and the museum to display it) is beyond question as far as I'm concerned. Whether or not it was a good idea to do this, though, is another question. It may have done more harm than good in promoting tolerance and understanding between the religious and non religious. People certainly have the right to criticize him for doing so or to think he's a jerk too and to boycott the museum that displayed it and other work he and his associates may have produced after.
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  6. #81
    Are you gonna finish that bacon? Vince524's Avatar
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    I wanted to drop this link in here about cultural appropriation.

    Bon Appetit.

    Wait, can I still say that?

    If you're a white person, you have no business running a restaurant that serves Asian, Latin, African, or Indian cuisine.
    That's according to the creators of a "white-owned appropriative restaurants" list, which accuses several Oregon establishments of engaging in cultural appropriation—a tool of "a white supremacist culture."
    The list, a Google Docs spreadsheet, includes about 60 Portland-area restaurants, the names of their white owners, and the kind of cuisine they serve. (For example, the list informs us that Burmasphere "was founded by a white man who ate Burmese food in San Francisco.") The spreadsheet also lists competing restaurants that are owned by people of color and urges customers to try them instead.

    "This is NOT about cooking at home or historical influences on cuisines; it's about profit, ownership, and wealth in a white supremacist culture," wrote the spreadsheet's authors. "These white-owned businesses hamper the ability for POC [people of color] to run successful businesses of their own (cooking their own cuisines) by either consuming market share with their attempt at authenticity or by modifying foods to market to white palates. Their success further perpetuates the problems stated above. It's a cyclical pattern that will require intentional behavior change to break."

  7. #82
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince524 View Post
    I wanted to drop this link in here about cultural appropriation.
    Did you have any thoughts to share, or are you just dropping by to once again make light of a serious discussion?

    Bon Appetit.

    Wait, can I still say that?
    Oh, nvm. Silly me.

    Well, I'll counter your link with this one.

    But the lack of diversity in the restaurant industry is real, and so (as Severson points out in her profile) is the whiteness of Keller’s kitchens.

    [SNIP]


    When Mistry tells Kim Severson that fine dining is “built from a system steeped in oppression and hierarchy in which women, gays and other minorities … are not treated the same,” she is talking about white supremacy, how the idea that white (and straight, and male) is better is an overarching one, which touches many different aspects of our culture — including dining. She’s not saying that groups of white chefs are getting together in secret meetings to discuss how to keep minorities down. She’s merely acknowledging issues that have affected generations of people of color.
    Kostow’s Instagram post reminded me of a conversation I had once with a manager of one of the top restaurants in Boston. We were at a hospitality conference in New York, and I mentioned to him that I would love to see more people of color attending. He responded with, “Well, maybe those kinds of people don’t care about hospitality.”

    I don't know enough about how the restaurant industry treats chefs of color. All I know is female chefs have been known to be marginalized massively, so I'm not at all surprised by assertions of racism within the industry.
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  8. #83
    practical experience, FTW mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince524 View Post
    I wanted to drop this link in here about cultural appropriation.
    Well. That's certainly changed my thinking.

  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    Well. That's certainly changed my thinking.
    Oh, it's completely reinforced mine.

  10. #85
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    Oh, it's completely reinforced mine.
    Mine as well.

  11. #86
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    Mine as well.
    Yup.


    Quote Originally Posted by Vince524 View Post
    I wanted to drop this link in here about cultural appropriation.
    So far, you've come into this thread and made light of the discussion within. But, unless I missed it, I haven't yet seen how you're going to avoid perpetuating the issue of cultural appropriation.

    Therefore, are you going to continue making fun and dismiss the points being discussed, or are you going to directly address the concerns in this thread? AKA, what was your point in posting the link?
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  12. #87
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snitchcat View Post
    Yup.




    So far, you've come into this thread and made light of the discussion within. But, unless I missed it, I haven't yet seen how you're going to avoid perpetuating the issue of cultural appropriation.

    Therefore, are you going to continue making fun and dismiss the points being discussed, or are you going to directly address the concerns in this thread? AKA, what was your point in posting the link?
    Vince524 can't answer you. He's worn out his welcome in this part of the forum.

    There actually are some reasonable counter arguments and alternatives, and room for honest and thoughtful questioning.

    He wasn't making them.

    ETA: Resorting to a false dilemma, that is an incident that is clearly problematic as an opposition to another problem, is not an argument. It is akin to asserting that "two wrongs make a right," or, if you're four "he did it first." It approaches "so's your mom" in terms of rhetorical sophistication.

    For the rhetorically curious see: dilemma, false dilemma, horns of a dilemma, Ceratin and Crocodilinae.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 05-26-2017 at 07:57 AM.

  13. #88
    practical experience, FTW mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post

    There actually are some reasonable counter arguments and alternatives, and room for honest and thoughtful questioning.

    He wasn't making them.
    I've often thought it would be interesting to have a game where we rotate having to take the opposing view. Just to help interrogate the other side of the argument. It might help the communication.

  14. #89
    People are not wearing enough hats JJ Litke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I've often thought it would be interesting to have a game where we rotate having to take the opposing view. Just to help interrogate the other side of the argument. It might help the communication.
    Eh, I can't recall a time I've ever heard anything worthwhile that followed, "Let me play devil's advocate here..."
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  15. #90
    practical experience, FTW mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Litke View Post
    Eh, I can't recall a time I've ever heard anything worthwhile that followed, "Let me play devil's advocate here..."
    No, because that's a dishonest positioning, usually. But a completely honest debatery kind of thing might be different. The fact that instead of pretending to a position we would say This is not my position, but how does this work as an argument?

    We wouldn't be trying to change minds, so much as trying to find for ourselves the other sides of the argument.

    ETA: It's a game I used to play in the car with my kids on their way to school. At the very least, it's good as a way of sharpening listening.
    Last edited by mccardey; 05-26-2017 at 07:59 AM.

  16. #91
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    There actually are some reasonable counter arguments and alternatives, and room for honest and thoughtful questioning.
    There actually are, given it's such a complex subject with blurred lines.

    A few months ago, I came across a controversy surrounding a YA Fantasy that is due out sometime this year. The author is Vietnamese-American, but the book draws heavily from Chinese culture and all of the characters AFAIK are Chinese. I haven't read it, so I really don't know much about it, but a Chinese reader asserted that the story misrepresents Chinese mythology and has several inaccuracies. Given the hype surrounding the book (it was acquired in a 6-figure deal and has been marketed quite a bit), the criticism drew a lot of attention, and devolved into a public argument between the author (and her supporters) and the reader (and HER supporters). Due to the long and conflicted history between China and Vietnam, there was also a strong assertion that the reader's criticism was driven mainly by racism on her part, a sort of "how dare someone from a lesser culture write about MY culture". There was also a question of what rights do diaspora writers have when it comes to writing about non-diaspora characters? So...yea...it's complicated. I still have no clue where I stand on that particular incident, tbh.
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  17. #92
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    So...yea...it's complicated. I still have no clue where I stand on that particular incident, tbh.
    It's really complicated. And we need better ways to deal with fallout.

  18. #93
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    TDue to the long and conflicted history between China and Vietnam, there was also a strong assertion that the reader's criticism was driven mainly by racism on her part, a sort of "how dare someone from a lesser culture write about MY culture". There was also a question of what rights do diaspora writers have when it comes to writing about non-diaspora characters? So...yea...it's complicated. I still have no clue where I stand on that particular incident, tbh.
    This really is complex. I tend to think that both extremes: people should only write about their own experiences and culture and identity, and the opinion that anything and anyone should be fair game (and anyone who complains is a whiner who denies the tide of history), are poor choices, but when you're advocating a middle ground, there's a lot of blurriness, problematic situations, and differences about where the line should be in the first place.

    Being one myself, I do get how white, US writers whose ancestors came to the country generations ago (and have had the privilege to not think or worry much about cultural roots on a daily basis and to conflate their own cultural experiences with "US normal") can worry that they are trapped between screwing up by writing only people and cultures like one's own vs screwing up by stealing the spotlight from, or doing harm to, people from other backgrounds that are less privileged. Especially if one genuinely wants to do good with one's writing and not continue the status quo as it's been in storytelling in the US (and maybe other western countries too).

    This is not the same as defensively worrying about "everyone being mad at one no matter what one does," but the distinction can be subtle.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 05-26-2017 at 08:34 AM.
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  19. #94
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    when you're advocating a middle ground, there's a lot of blurriness, problematic situations, and differences about where the line should be in the first place.
    Thank you for pointing this out! This applies to many issues. It's why I appreciate having a place like AW, where there are so many people who are open to having an intelligent and honest discussion about difficult topics. I don't really get that opportunity in meatspace.

    Being one myself, I do get how white, US writers whose ancestors came to the country generations ago (and have had the privilege to not think or worry much about cultural roots on a daily basis and to conflate their own cultural experiences with "US normal") can worry that they are trapped between screwing up by writing only people and cultures like one's own vs screwing up by stealing the spotlight from, or doing harm to, people from other backgrounds that are less privileged. Especially if one genuinely wants to do good with one's writing and not continue the status quo as it's been in storytelling in the US (and maybe other western countries too).
    I ask myself this a lot. I think it's something everyone in a privileged position needs to ask themselves at some point. I'm Chinese-Indonesian. We make up...I think 1.3% of the population in Indo, but we own 73% of listed firms and about 70% of the nation's economy. Economically speaking, we are incredibly privileged, but politically and socially, we're a weak minority. The '98 riots, which led to the deaths of thousands, specifically targeted the Chinese population. So the history of our relationship with the indigenous people of Indonesia is long and conflicted, and I often find myself questioning whether I should write Native Indonesian characters. Not to mention questioning if I have any right to draw from Chinese culture, since I'm third-generation. I know some Chinese people who would feel that having a diaspora writer writing about Chinese culture is a form of cultural appropriation.

    And I think this is something we should be asking ourselves -- acknowledging our various privileges and questioning if we're using them in a way that harms others.

    This is not the same as defensively worrying about "everyone being mad at one no matter what one does," but the distinction can be subtle.
    So far, I've stayed away from writing Native Indo characters, but then I got to know a Native Indo writer over Twitter who asked if I have any Native Indo characters in my books. I said no, and she asked, "Why not?" It gave me pause. I wasn't sure what to say. That I was afraid of getting it wrong, that I wasn't even sure if I have the right to, that I'm not sure I'm capable of doing the right research, that I don't want to be targeted by the government, and so on and so forth.

    I get the emotion of "everyone will be mad no matter what". I sometimes feel that myself, and it's easy to cover my ears and go, "LALALA NOT LISTENING". But I think, like you said, if one genuinely wants to do good with one's writing, then it's worth thinking about our legacy, and what we're going to be leaving behind with our writing.
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